Free Press, Free People

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times
“Free Press, Free People”
Each year when attending the Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention, this slogan stands out. It is part of the association’s seal, it is on the sign behind the speaker’s podium and it is part of the mission of the member newspapers.
Thomas Jefferson once said “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” In the many years since, presidents and other political leaders have understood not only the power, but the importance of a free press in our society.
President Calvin Coolidge said “Wherever despotism abounds, the sources of public information are the first to be brought under its control.”
Over the past few years, the term “fake news” has become popular. It started out as a social media thing, to describe misinformation that was spread on the internet. For a time, the term was tossed around as a joke among journalists.
It’s no joke. The term “fake news” was adopted by certain politicians and used to discredit very credible news stories and news sources.
Misinformation, propaganda and outright lies have been a part of politics probably since the beginning of time. Credible news sources work hard to separate the fact from the fiction and the only agenda they have is to report the truth. Often, a true story casts a person or a group in a negative light, and the knee-jerk reaction is to “blame the messenger.”
Over the past few months, journalists - credible journalists - have been labelled the “enemy of the people.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A free press is a cornerstone of the American way of life. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.”

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